Content marketing is one of the most popular and fastest-growing strategies in the inbound methodology.
And yet, a lot of content writers, marketing managers and even CEOs have a hard time connecting the value of content to their end goal of generating revenue.
The old way of thinking about this is a marketing adage: “I know 50% of my marketing is working, but I don’t know which 50%.”
The new way of thinking about this is: “I know exactly which content on my website is helping turn website visitors into paying customers.”
In this blog post, we’ll dive into the ways that you can validate whether your website’s content is generating revenue. Specifically, we’ll cover:
- What is content marketing?
- How can content earn visitors?
- How can content convert visitors to leads?
- How can content convert leads to customers?
- How can you track everything?
To start, let’s get on the same page by defining content marketing.
1. What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the process of writing, filming, or illustrating answers to questions that pertain to your industry. Most of the time, you’ll find this content separated into two categories:
- Website content
- Premium content
Website content is accessible via your company’s online presence, and it gives away information for free.
Premium content is also accessible via your company’s website, but it’s commonly “gated” behind a form requesting contact information, a paywall, or some other preventative measures that adds someone to your lead database.
By using these two forms of content in conjunction with one another, you can effectively create a lead generation engine using your website. This is, in essence, what inbound marketing is all about!
Now that we have the definition down, let’s talk about how content marketing starts the inbound process by earning visitors.
2. How Can Content Earn Visitors?
One of the best parts of content marketing is that the end results are so versatile.
These are the most popular ways that companies use content to earn website visitors:
- Search engine optimization (SEO) / organic search
- Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) / online advertising
- Social media posts
- Automated emails
- Sales emails
- Downloadable PDFs
- Links from other websites
So let’s say you wrote a blog. That blog lives on your website.
You can let the blog sit and earn SEO traffic, post it to your social media to earn additional traffic, make it the focal point of an ad campaign, convert it into a downloadable format, use it in your sales emails and so much more.
So what does that mean for you? Essentially, content marketing will give you the greatest value for your dollar by being the gift that keeps on giving.
But traffic is just the beginning.
The next phase gets you closer to connecting your content to your company’s revenue.
3. How Can Content Convert Visitors to Leads?
Content plays an essential role in any inbound marketing strategy when it comes to lead generation.
The first step is what we established up top— attracting visitors to your website by answering questions that are relevant to your industry.
Then, the next step is to show your website visitors that they can learn more by opting to download a deeper and more thorough piece of content, often by giving their contact information in exchange via an online form.
This content is called “premium” content because while it’s still technically free, a visitor has to offer something in exchange for it.
Once you have your visitor’s contact information, they’re officially a lead. Here’s why.
To understand why you should treat content downloaders as traditional business leads, it’s important to get into the mindset of the person who’s downloading from you.
In some way, they came to your first piece of online content, seeking an answer for a question they had. That may have been through search engines, online ads, social media, email, or another method.
Either way, they’re on your website. They’re reading (or watching) what you have to say. The more content they consume from you, the more you can infer that they trust you and look to you as a reliable source of information in your industry.
Then, they download something from you. This is the pivotal threshold of transforming a visitor into a lead because the visitor is saying:
“I trust and like you so much that I’m willing to let someone who works for you — a total stranger — talk to me more about how I can work with you.”
This threshold is crucial to understanding the creation of leads for your business. It’s a massive step forward in terms of trust. In essence, you’ve successfully created such an incredible impression on this person who’s never met you face-to-face that they’re willing to possibly buy something from a total stranger, just because they work for you.
To get an idea of how important this is, ask yourself: When’s the last time you gave your phone number to someone and told them to let one of their friends give you a call?
For most of us, that answer is never.
But you could have new leads doing it every day.
Now that you have your leads’ trust, it’s time for you to turn them into customers.
4. How Can Content Convert Leads to Customers?
In all honesty, this is the trickiest part of the whole content-to-cash process. There are a few reasons for that.
- This requires salespeople to buy into the concept of content marketing
- This requires a documented sales process to work best
- This requires marketers who are willing to listen to salespeople
- This requires marketers who are willing to accept responsibility for customer creation
This may sound simple in a vacuum. Sales departments and marketing departments are two sides of the same coin. They each play cards in the game of customer creation.
But for whatever reason, some sales and marketing departments don’t get along. It could be bad blood. It could be a mismatch of marketing and sales strategies.
Sometimes, it’s simply because communication between the two departments sounds confrontational or accusatory when it’s intended to be purely informative.
Regardless, here’s how both departments can start working together, using content, to create customers.
Buying into Content Marketing
Like any business strategy, content marketing requires buy-in from everyone to fully embrace the potential that it presents.
This is important for sales teams in particular because content can save them time.
For example, if they get the same frequent question from potential customers, they could send those leads a link to a blog post or video that has the answer so that they don’t have to spend time explaining it themselves.
However, this requires a sales team that’s on-board for content marketing, and they have to support the strategy themselves.
Often, this is easy enough to do once a sales team sees one or more of its members using content to save time in their day — especially if your sales team works on high commission percentages.
Then, your sales team can sell more efficiently so that they can focus on the leads who are truly qualified to become customers while they nurture their pipeline with helpful information.
And speaking of pipeline, let’s talk about documenting your sales process.
Documenting Your Sales Process
Documenting your sales process is crucial to understanding where and how content can help.
This is because documentation allows you to identify specific parts of the sales process where you lose leads and where you successfully convert them into customers.
It also aligns your salespeople to use the same general tactics so they can determine what works best for their sales style.
When you start documenting your sales process, an interesting thing often happens — your salespeople start realizing that they answer the same five to 10 questions over and over again, day after day.
Documenting the process allows your salespeople to pinpoint exactly what these questions are and how they relate to the sales process.
And once they’ve done that, they can perform a crucial step.
They tell the marketing department what they answer every day.
After they do that, it’s time for marketing to jump into high gear.
Listen to Salespeople
Like we said earlier, it’s easy for marketing and sales teams to miscommunicate or otherwise function inefficiently because of personal feelings, professional misgivings, and more.
As a result, it can be hard to tell a marketer that they should listen to a salesperson, especially since this risks coming across as, “Let Sales tell you how to do your job.”
In reality, marketing professionals only have to listen to their sales counterparts to create a firmer and more efficient customer creation process.
There are two basic tenets to listening in this regard:
- Ask salespeople what questions they’re tired of answering
- Ask salespeople how they usually answer those questions
Then, marketers can take notes, get creative, and think of content-fueled ways to provide answers to leads and prospects.
That’s the entire process of “listening” in terms of a marketing-sales relationship.
It’s worth noting that a funny thing can happen once your marketing team starts accepting insights from your sales team, too.
Suddenly, you get more qualified leads who have more productive conversations with salespeople.
Because the questions that salespeople had to answer over and over again — the ones that may have gotten in the way of converting a lead to a customer — are readily available online and answered before a lead even contacts your business.
As a result, your marketing team gets to create some truly helpful content and your sales team gets to focus on the leads most likely to buy from the company.
All the same, there’s still one more important function that a marketing team has to perform in this configuration.
Accept Responsibility for Customer Creation
In many businesses, the marketing department may only be liable for lead generation or qualified lead generation. They hit their numbers, the leadership team is happy, and everyone looks at the sales team for customers.
However, this isn’t a realistic strategy to generate revenue. Marketing can open up the floodgates to earn any number of leads they want concerning any topic, and that “shotgun” effect could inundate the sales team with unqualified prospects.
So what’s the way to prevent that from happening?
Your marketing team has to accept that they, along with the sales team, are responsible for generating customers for your business.
That’s because content marketing often provides the first-touch experience for a new lead. A blog post, downloadable PDF, or some other collateral sets a lead’s expectations in terms of what they’ll experience next.
If those expectations are misaligned with the business’s products or services, then it’s unrealistic to expect the sales team to succeed.
But when your marketing team is plugged into your revenue goals, you can make magic happen.
Could you generate fewer leads than if you took a “shotgun” approach to content marketing?
But would you rather talk to qualified prospects instead of random leads?
So now that we’ve gone through all of this — defining content marketing, getting visitors, generating leads, and creating customers — let’s talk about the glue that holds these vital concepts together.
Let’s talk about tracking.
5. How Can You Track Everything?
Remember when we said a while ago (this blog is getting pretty long, huh?) that there’s a common marketing adage? “I know 50% of my marketing is working, but I don’t know which 50%.”
Content marketing makes that adage obsolete — but only when you track your results.
One of the most common ways to track content marketing success is with something called an attribution model. An attribution model is a way of looking at a prospect’s journey with your company from first-time visitor to long-term customer.
Different attribution models place emphasis on different “steps” of the customer conversion process to emphasize their importance. Some models place all of the emphasis on the “last step” (or the interaction right before someone became a customer), the “first step” (or the original content that engaged a future customer), or any configuration in-between.
This can be important for some businesses, but it’s not always effective for service companies that have a long sales process.
(It’s also not great for business trying content marketing for the first time because you generally start trying to do too much at one time. It can get messy pretty quickly.)
So can you do instead?
The answer lies in data. Specifically, the data of influence — the ability to see the content that your customers viewed before becoming customers, implying that the content played an important role in their buying decision.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is great because it lets you track every bit of influence you’ve ever had with a prospect.
It lets you see when they visited your website, what they did on your website, which forms they completed, which emails they opened, and more.
Systems that act like a combination content management system (CMS) and CRM do this especially well. HubSpot is one of the best examples of doing this, so we’ll use them as the example.
In HubSpot’s case, you can take these small bits of data and assess them on a larger scale. You can create lists of your leads who have received certain emails, read certain pages, visited your website in a certain timespan, and much more.
In essence, HubSpot makes it possible to understand the significance of every single step that a prospect takes to converting into a full customer.
As a result, you can see how many customers your content has “influenced,” or played a role in converting.
This influence may have been a first-touch interaction. It may have been the last page on a website someone read before making a purchase.
Regardless, you can know concretely which content contributes to your revenue.
(HubSpot also has some fun ways of doing this by setting up campaigns, topic clusters, and other back-end details, but that’s for another blog post.)
With that, you’re all set.
You’ve successfully connected your content to cash.
Learn How Impulse Creative Creates Content That Pays
Are you ready to start generating content that earns you revenue?
At Impulse Creative, we’ve been performing that exact service for our clients for years. We know what kind of content can start earning you more customers, and we know how to tell whether it’s working.
Check out how we perform content marketing to help businesses like yours thrive!